The traditional engineer vs. The innovative engineer

Daniel Michael Ferguson, Senay Purzer, Matthew W. Ohland, Kathryn Jablokow

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Business and political leaders in the United States feel that we, as a society, do not understand that new global competition can match and even outpace us on innovation. The purpose of this paper is to provide a description of the traditional or non-innovative engineer as seen from the eyes of the innovative engineer. Traditional engineers or non-innovative engineers are engineers who are the backbone of any company that relies on technology-meaning all 21st century companies. Understanding traditional or non-innovative engineers, given that they are seen as the opposite of innovative engineers, will help us identify the innovative engineer, the hero of our innovation and societal desires. Traditional or non-innovative does not mean incompetent but does mean the traits that tend to produce good and even great solutions to problems in known or traditional ways and these engineers are the null set when understanding the innovative engineer. The 53 innovative engineers that we interviewed to identify the traits of innovative engineers clearly described the traditional engineer as a way to explain the opposite, the characteristics of an innovative engineer. Our interview based study focused on the research question: "What are the characteristics or knowledge, skills, and attributes that enable or inhibit engineers from translating their creative ideas into innovations that benefit society?" This study was set in an interpretivist framework and we developed a co-constructed description of engineering innovativeness or the lack thereof using a grounded theory analysis approach for integrated data collection and analysis. Traditional or non-innovative engineers were described by engineering innovators as people who do not challenge the status quo and are not collaborators. Traditional or non-innovative engineers are engineers who minimize risk, think short- Term and focus on a narrow domain of knowledge or expertise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2014
Event121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education - Indianapolis, IN, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2014Jun 18 2014


Other121st ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: 360 Degrees of Engineering Education
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityIndianapolis, IN

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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